BY ANDI GRAYDilemma: We’re worried about how one of our supervisors is going to react: We don’t want to lose him, but we’re going to have to bring in a new manager over him. This employee is clearly our star technical person but he doesn’t have the scope or experience to manage the department as it continues to grow.
Thoughts of the Day: First and foremost, your job as an owner or executive officer is to do what’s best for the entire company. Make it clear that this is a reorganization in preparation for a growth spurt. Implement the changes you need to make and be prepared for a variety of outcomes.
Think carefully about the decision you’re about to make. What isn’t working? Can the employee be trained to do the job you’ll be asking him to do? Do you have enough time to get through a round of training? Will the employee willingly engage if more training is offered? Or does the employee even want to stay in the supervisory position?
Talk it through with the employee in question to understand his take on the situation. Don’t make any promises when having this conversation, no matter how hard you’re pressed to do so. But do be prepared to answer some questions about options and next steps. It’s probably best to have another member of management present at the meeting to help keep things on point—and to witness the conversation.
Regardless of the loyalty you may feel to any one of your employees, you must prioritize the overall well-being of the company and the growth of the staff as a whole. Putting employees in situations where they are in over their heads can be challenging for everyone on the team; however, keeping them there if they are struggling can make a tough situation even worse.
Be sure to discuss this first with the employee and not let the cat out of the bag with others prematurely. Offer options such as continuing with the company as a valuable team member or moving on to another job elsewhere. Make it clear that you’d prefer it if the employee chooses the former, but you’ll understand if it’s the latter.
Consider giving the employee a position of importance to move into. Becoming a technical specialist, with equal grade as a supervisor, may be one way to do that. If you can afford to, use that equal grade to justify keeping the employee at the same pay and benefits as a supervisor. When you’re ready to address the situation with the whole company, talk about the change as another but equally valuable step on the career ladder, one that allows the employee to share his expertise instead of supervising people.
Talk it through with the employee in question to understand his take on the situation. Don’t make any promises when having this conversation ..."
After you and the employee have agreed on the next steps, hold a department meeting—or a companywide one if you’re a smaller company—and announce the changes. Explain how future growth requires that you reach outside the company to find someone with the expertise to handle the challenges you anticipate will be coming the company’s way. Discuss the importance of minimizing risk and reducing the possibilities for mistakes by hiring someone who has “been there and done that.”
A cautionary reality check: Are you willing to spend the time needed to hold this employee’s hand through the frustration that may arise? Is this employee enough of a team player to get that you’re trying to do what’s right for everyone—including him? Will the employee have a greater than 50-50 chance of succeeding in the new assignment? Might he thrive once he’s no longer in a position of managing people? And does this employee have enough maturity to support the new manager?
Make the changes you need to and be prepared for a variety of outcomes. If the employee leaves, who will fill his shoes? What will this employee be held accountable for? What training will be needed to prepare for the revised position? Invite the employee to meet with you and the new manager, once they’ve been hired, to talk about how to best manage the department.. [CD0916] Looking for a good book? A Manager’s Guide to Hiring the Best Person for Every Job by DeAnne Rosenberg.
Andi Gray is the Founder of the business consulting firm Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.